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Finances Change with US Family Structure

  • One out of every 10 Generation X mothers is single – many more than in the generation born during World War II.
  • Nearly two-thirds of single older people are the survivors of divorce – far more than in the past.
  • About one in three couples has moved away from their hometowns and from both of their mothers – blame this geographic mobility on the growing share of U.S. workers who are college educated.

These are just a few of the dramatic changes in U.S. family structure and behavior that have developed over the past half century.  These changes have had enormous financial consequences for everyone, especially women.

Squared Away has documented some of the financial impacts in previous blogs. A Lucky 7 such blogs, most of them based on studies by the Retirement Research Consortium, are summarized below (with links to each one):

  • Women are having babies five years later, on average, increasing their earnings substantially over their lifetimes.
  • About half of Americans don’t live near their mothers, creating new pressures for caregivers. This video explains who they are.
  • In the aftermath of divorce, many women figured out how to rebound in the labor force and earn more.
  • But when it comes to retirement preparedness, a doubling in the divorce rate since 1990 has put more baby boomers at a financial disadvantage.
  • Stepchildren, divorced parents, blended families – the structure of the parent-child relationship has grown more complex, and so have the parents’ wills.
  • Social Security spousal and survivor benefits were designed in the 1930s. But today, a majority of wives work, diminishing the importance of these benefits to working couples.
  • Particularly for mothers who are divorced or never married, some say it’s time to give Social Security child-care credits to moms to help make up for their child-rearing years, when it’s more difficult to work and earn traditional worker credits under Social Security.

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3 Responses to Finances Change with US Family Structure

  1. Brian says:

    That’s interesting. The common theme here, as it almost always is, is “choice.” In almost every situation our outcomes are based on the personal choices we make – whether good or bad choices resulting in good or bad outcomes – ultimately, each of us is mostly in control of our fate. That’s a good thing.

    • Michael says:

      Well said, Brian! I agree with you. Our current state in life is due to the choices we made yesterday and the choices we make today determine where we will be tomorrow.


  2. Jim Wang says:

    We live about 5 hours from my parents (or a 45 minute flight more like) and an hour from my wife’s parents, which compared to many of our peers is very close. We chose where we live because of our jobs, the DC area is chock full of opportunity especially if you have an in-demand degree. But as Brian said, it was our choice.